Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your Canadiens for May 15, 2012

Since I was unable to post yesterday as mentioned on Twitter, we'll start today playing catch-up before getting into more new features!

It's been quiet on the Habs' front the past few day, which is to be expected as new General Manager Marc Bergevin settles into his role and assessed what he has in place in terms of staff and players.  A Tweet from TSN's Bob McKenzie yesterday indicated the Canadiens were still in the early stages of their coaching search, in the process of contacting candidates on the list they've assembled.  Some of the names he mentioned included Bob Hartley (who is also linked to the vacancy in Calgary), Marc Crawford, Michel Therrien, and Guy Carbonneau.  As I've mentioned previously, there is no rush to find the right man for this job, though it would be preferable to have a coaching staff in place prior to July 1st, since a UFA is more likely to sign if they have an understanding of the environment they'll be walking into.

Also on the coaching front, New Jersey Devils' Assistant Coach Larry Robinson refuted a report of last week (coming directly from his agent) that said he had interested in joining the Canadiens.  It could be speculated, however, that he is denying his interest only to avoid distraction since his current squad is playing in the Conference Finals at the moment.

A week ago, it seemed like Rick Dudley joining Montreal's front office was imminent, but the situation grew increasingly complex and we are still waiting on action.  The biggest issue of contention is that, though Dudley has an out clause in his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he has put in significant work preparing the team for the upcoming Entry Draft, where they select 5th overall in each round to Montreal's 3rd.  As such, he has been privy to a lot of sensitive information, and it has been stipulated that if/when he does join the Habs, he will be unable to work this year's Draft on their behalf.  That said, his escape clause has been confirmed by Leafs' GM Brian Burke, meaning that the only other remaining detail is for his contract with the Canadiens to be worked out.

It's been a tough World Championship for Denmark who finally got their first win by beating Lativa 2-0 yesterday, but were then thumped by surprising Norway 6-2 this morning.  Montreal's Lars Eller finished the preliminary round leading his team with 3 goals and 5 points, and the club's 1 win and 1 overtime loss were enough to keep them ahead of Italy (despite losing to them in that overtime game) and avoid relegation.  Eller led all Danish forwards (and ranked third overall on the team) in ice time per game, averaging 20:56 a night.

Habs' Max Pacioretty has figured amongst the tournament's leading scorers throughout the preliminary round, with an impressive 2 goals and 10 points in just 6 games, some 3 points ahead of the second leading scorer on his club, defenseman Justin Faulk.  The Americans close out their preliminary round later this afternoon against Switzerland, though their spot in the quarter finals has already been confirmed.

The Russian squad rattled off an impressive 7-0-0 record in the preliminary round to win their group, and their squad will be bolstered by the additions of Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin for the quarter-finals.  After missing part of a game due to injury, and being held out for another cause of a suspension for a spear on Sweden/Detroit's Johan Franzen, Alexei Emelin has slotted back in as an important defender for the squad.  He plays on the team's top pairing and has produced 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 games, while tying for a team-high amongst d-men with a +7 rating.  Sticking with this team, former Canadiens forward Alexander Perezhogin has been impressive in the tournament, racking up 3 goals and 8 points in 7 matches.  The Habs' lost the rights to Perezhogin, 28, last summer, meaning that if he were to ever consider returning to North America from the KHL, he would be an unrestricted free agent.

The Czech Republic has also locked in a quarterfinal berth, though their final game against Germany this afternoon impacts where they'll finish.  Montreal's Tomas Plekanec leads all Czech players with 5 points in 6 games thus far, and his average ice time of 17:47 per game ranks second among forwards on the squad to only David Krejci of the Boston Bruins.

In other Worlds news, Canada finished the preliminary round with a 6-0-1 record to win their group.  Despite a moral victory of taking Team U.S.A. to overtime, Kazakhstan finished last in the division, meaning like the Italians, they will be relegated next year.  The impressive/surprising story on this side has been Team France, led by former Habs' netminder Cristobal Huet, which currently sits at 3-3-0.  They are playing against Slovakia at the time of writing, tied 2-2 in the second, and if they can win in regulation, they will qualify for the tournament's quarterfinals by having beaten the Slovaks, thus ending the tournament for Zdeno Chara and his countrymen.

It has been reported that at least three NHL clubs have made offers to Swiss forward Damien Brunner, including the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, and your Montreal Canadiens.  Brunner, 26, isn't the biggest player at 5'11", 176 lbs, but is highly skilled, becoming the first Swiss-born and trained player to lead the Swiss A league in scoring in over 30 years this past season, with 24 goals and 60 points (a full 21 points ahead of his nearest teammate) in just 45 games as a teammate and regular linemate of ex-Hab Glen Metropolit.  Though Switzerland failed to qualify for the quarterfinals at the IIHF WHC, Brunner was a big part of their offense, leading the team with 3 goals and 6 points through 6 games.  No, another undersized forward is not exactly what the Habs are looking for right now, but we're talking about a player with a lot of potential who could be had without sacrificing any assets.  There is very little risk, and significant potential reward in getting Brunner under contract, so we can only hope that Metropolit and Swiss countrymen Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber talk the city up to him.

Quick announcement that tomorrow in our Around the League(s) segment, we'll be previewing the Memorial Cup which gets underway Friday.  Next week, as we approach the one-month mark till the NHL Entry Draft, we'll begin to discuss in greater detail the options and players the Canadiens have available to them.

No comments: